Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What I love about One Piece

Ok, I know I already talked about this during my post on the Big 3, but I've been playing One Piece Romance Dawn almost non-stop so I figured I'd elaborate on why I consider One Piece to be the king of the Big 3. Pardon me if this ends up turning into a crash course on One Piece.
This thing is arguably the most popular anime and certainly best selling manga series in the world. I have yet to actually meet anyone in the anime community with something bad to say about it other than its length. It is quite honestly an anime that is worth all the acclaim that the fans give it. It is also one of the strangest anime I have ever seen yet the show makes it work so well that it just results in a really fun show.

All of the Straw Hats are great characters and each of them has gotten great moments so far. Unlike the other members of the Big 3, where the main character is usually the only one shown getting stronger, everyone gets the chance to become stronger so they don't just get knocked out of a fight immediately. They all feel like legitimate characters. My personal favorite being Ussop because I feel he has come along way since his cowardly beginnings both in terms of his tactics and in terms of his creativity. Characters that might seem broken actually aren't as the anime/manga makes it very clear that no matter how strong someone gets, there will always be someone stronger down the line. This leads to a lot of very gripping, intense fights. My personal favorite arc so far is the CP9 arc because it shows exactly what each of the Straw Hats are capable of. The villains are unique, very memorable, pose a great threat, and in general are just fun antagonists. Every battle in this anime/manga has this sort of grand feel to it which lacking is really lacking in Naruto and Bleach.

One Piece is that at that level of weirdness where everything just seems to make sense no matter how odd or outlandish it gets. Seriously, only in One Piece can a cola-powered cyborg shipwright, fish people (not just mermaids), a skeleton musician with an afro, and a talking shape-shifting blue-nosed reindeer doctor make total sense. My personal favorite example of its weirdness however comes from the Alabasta arc. It is during the battle where Chopper and Ussop are fighting Baroque Works agents Mr.4, Ms. Merry Christmas, and their cannon dog Lassoo who is quite literally a cannon that ate the Mutt-Mutt fruit Dachshund Model.
Ussop asks Ms Merry Christmas how it was even possible for a cannon to do that and she basically responds by saying "Its a new Grand Line trick. You haven't seen anything yet.". That one line speaks volumes about One Piece's weirdness.
The Devil Fruits bring a very nice variety in abilities to the table. Though each fruit has different strengths, they all share the same weakness: people who eat the devil fruits can no longer swim and will sink like a rock in water deep enough to drown in. On its own, that doesn't sound a like a big weakness but it becomes a major possibility when you consider that the two most common occupations in the show/manga are Navy and Pirate so just about every devil fruit user falls into one of those two categories. That isn't the only threat to the devil fruit users either. There is a special stone from the bottom of the sea that can shut off a person's devil fruit abilities as long as the stone touches them. There is also Haki and one of the types (Armament Haki) can counter devil fruit users abilities and is especially effective against Logia types.
One of my favorite Devil Fruits: Ace's Mera Mera Fruit.
Overall there are three basic types of devil fruits: Logia, Zoan, and Paramecia. Logia devil fruits allow the user to change their body into a specific force of nature like Ace's fire based powers thanks to the Mera-Mera Fruit. Zoan fruits give the user the power to transform into animals such as Chopper's humanoid form and ability to speak via the Human-Human Fruit. The Zoan type is not limited to just regular animals, there are some that grant the powers of mythical creatures like Marco's Phoenix fruit as well as the Ancient Zoan fruits that allow the user to turn into dinosaurs. Parameicia fruits grant the users general super-human powers such as Luffy's ability to stretch via the Gum-Gum Fruit. To make it even more interesting, certain devil fruits render the user immune or resistant to other devil fruit abilities, like the Gum-Gum fruit rendering Luffy virtually immune to Enel's Rumble-Rumble fruit due to Luffy's body being rubber or the Wax-Wax fruit being able to neutralize/block the Venom-Venom fruit's poison.
One of the more fascinating things about the show is how Oda set up the Navy wanting the Straw Hats heads. The Straw Hats are pirates in name and symbol only, they have for the most part done nothing that is actually illegal. It shows how corrupt that the Navy and the World Government actually are if they're willing to hunt down people doing more good than harm. The testimony from all the people they've helped would be more than enough to clear them of the charges but as long as they fly the Jolly Rodger, the World Government will only ever see them as pirates. That is a stroke of genius.
However, the most impressive feat of the anime/manga by far is Oda's ability to keep things consistent with previously established continuity and character backstories. Now on its own, that compliment doesn't sound like much of a compliment but consider this: At the time of this post the manga currently has over 748 chapters which is a total of 78 volumes and the anime has 708 episodes with about 12 movies. That in and of itself is amazing. I can't help but think Oda reads through some of his notes before writing a new arc just to make sure he doesn't repeat himself. Oda also really knows how to handle character deaths. He rarely kills off characters but when he does, he always does it in a grand fashion so no matter what happens later, you will always remember the character's final moments. Anyway those are my thoughts on One Piece, an anime that I consider to be the current king of the shounen genre and it is definitely worth the acclaim that the fans give it. The anime is just plain old fashion-ed fun. And with that, I'll leave all with this:

My issues with Sword Art Online

Well I've been watching Sword Art Online's third arc lately and I think its about time that I expand upon my issues of why I don't like SAO as a whole. I'll be talking about each arc individually. It is one of the more popular anime out there in the same vein as Attack on Titan and well, you already know how I feel about that. This one of the prime examples of an over-hyped anime.
This picture alone represents the drastic change between the first and second arcs.
Sword Art Online arc:
This had potential but I don't feel it did much with its concepts other than the life or death struggle but even then, it doesn't go beyond them trying to get out before they get killed. One thing I remember finding very odd is that they were all in a hurry to leave once they found out they were stuck. They were in a position that a lot of people would love to be in minus the whole "you die in the game, you die for real" thing. This unfortunately means that there are a lot of generic characters who get introduced just to die. Asuna was awesome in this half but sadly, well you'll see when I mention the Alfhiem arc. This arc doesn't go very far into what it actually means to be alive which would've been interesting to see given their real bodies were comatose. It may seem odd that I was expecting something like that given that I've ragged on Casshern Sins for doing something similar, the only difference being that all of Casshern Sins' characters are robots and it comes off as being pretentious but that is a story for another day.
Yeah he makes this face a lot during this arc.
For being an MMO it didn't really separate the various classes outside of weaponry or even name the classes. They make no attempt to even think about what they were going to do on the off-chance that the final boss was unbeatable. For the most part we never even find out why the villain trapped them in the game in the first place. Admittedly, I did sort of enjoy seeing Kirito and Asuna interact and we got a touching moment or two between them. Overall, this arc was just ok.

Alfhiem Online arc:
This is where the show just hits the fan for me and its where the bulk of my problems with this anime come from. It completely destroys any good that came from the Sword Art arc. The art style goes through a drastic change and becomes more cutesy in general but its a high fantasy MMO so it is somewhat understandable. This arc basically amounts to Kirito constantly saying "I've gotta save my waifu" and focusing on only that. Seriously, even when the villain reveals to Kirito that Asuna isn't the only one trapped it still sort of feels like he just wants to save Asuna and if he saves the others in the process then so be it. While Asuna was awesome in the first arc, she unfortunately gets becomes nothing more than a damsel in distress during this arc. I'm not even gonna acknowledge the infamous tentacle scene when Asuna tried to escape as it was in very bad taste and only there for the sake of fan-service. It was completely unnecessary and idiotic. It even angered the show's fans from what I've heard. It is by far the worst moment in the anime so far. Seriously, why is it even in there? Granted that might be because it was in the light novels.
This was just....ugh...NO!!...I can't even talk about it!
From what I was able to piece together from the plot, the villain's plan was ridiculous. He basically wanted to marry Asuna because her family was rich and he could use that money to finance his experiments. That is kind of weird, creepy, and cliche all at the same time. To top it all off, I can't even take the villain seriously in this arc. Its made pretty obvious that he is little more than a joke. I keep finding myself asking why this arc exists.

Gun Gale Online arc:
Something about this arc just feels off to me for some reason but I can't quite put my finger on it. I think its mostly because even though Kirito is still the main protagonist, he hasn't exactly adapted to the Gun Gale mechanics/play-style. He is in an MMO about guns and gun-play but he is still using a sword as his default weapon and playing it like he has the other two MMOs. I know his specialty is sword fighting but it completely clashes with the game genre that this season is using as a base. Another weird thing is that this arc seems to actually be questioning what reality actually is. Kirito goes on in the first episode about what constitutes something being real. If its something that seems real in a virtual world, who is to say that it isn't real. While that is a nice idea, I find it odd that SAO of all things is asking this question as it doesn't feel like it has earned the right to ask them.
The villain is named Death Gun and well honestly thats one of most ridiculous names I've ever heard. There have also been hints that he is related to the Laughing Coffin guild from SAO and that he might have been one of the people Kirito "killed". They're just now playing up Kirito's trauma from being trapped in SAO. Why wasn't this brought up before? It makes the Alfheim arc seem completely unnecessary since they could have addressed it then instead of having that entire arc focus around saving Asuna. The overall reveal of how Death Gun was killing people was underwhelming and the twist itself was extremely easy to see coming. Seriously injecting them with drugs to simulate a heart attack was all they could come up with? The Ragnarock part of this arc is nothing more than filler which is weird because its in the light novels so its canon filler.
As a whole the anime itself is pretending to be something it isn't. Its a romance/drama anime that wants to be shounen/action anime that wants you to think it is an MMO anime. I call it a romance/drama anime because that is what the entire second and third arcs smell like to me. It was an ok anime during the Sword Art arc but during Alfhiem it just takes a nose dive and doesn't really recover for me. Something about the Gun Gale arc just feels off entirely to the point where it doesn't even feel like the same anime. It also doesn't feel consistent between any of those three arcs. If you like this anime, more power to you. If you haven't seen it, I would only recommend this anime as nothing more than popcorn material.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

My Thoughts on the Taisen Saga

Since it is looking like the Taisen films are going to become a yearly thing, I feel this would be the best time to write something like this. These movies overall are infamous in the tokusatsu fandom. Anyway, here go my thoughts on the Super Hero Taisen films I've seen so far.

Super Hero Taisen:
This is the first film in the saga and overall, it makes no sense. Its purely made for the sake of fan service. The basic overview of this film is that the Sentai and Riders are fighting to the death due to the belief that only one can exist. Marvelous controls Dai Zangyack which is composed of all the Sentai villains while Decade controls Dai Shocker which is made of all the Rider villains. However the battle was only a ruse to bring both Sentai and Riders together since they figured that the two villain factions were planning something together. That is by far one of the worst plans for these types of films. Its premise fall apart due to one massive hole in the plot: If Marvelous and Decade are able to find both Sentai members and Riders so easily then it shouldn't be that hard to clue everyone in that something big is about to go down. They did not need to fight each other just to get everyone in one place. Marvelous and Decade are also extremely out of character in this movie. The final battle is just a mess with the camera not focusing on a shot long enough to process what happened. I seriously had to rewatch the same shot multiple times just to figure out what was going on. It was one of most cluttered fight scenes I've ever seen.

Superhero Taisen Z:
This is the second film in the saga and it is slightly better than the first one. The cast is significantly slimmed down so there is less to focus on. My biggest problem with this film is that the Space Sheriffs automatically assume Wizard and Beast were responsible for magical anomalies with no mention of even questioning the Magirangers or consulting with them. Instead, they just blamed the new guys. With that being said, the movie doesn't rely on some plan pulled out at the last second to fool the enemy. The final fight scene is less cluttered due to the shrunken cast so the camera can actually focus on a shot long enough for use to see what is going on to some degree. Overall the film suffers from the same problems as the first film with the heroes fighting for stupid reasons and ignoring other options that make more sense use. Out of the three I've seen, this one is slightly more passable than the other two.

Kamen Rider Taisen:
This is by far the worst film in the saga and it is the one I have the most problems with.The overall plot of the movie is that Kouta saves a kid who has the power to invert things, including life and death. This allows the villains to start their plan and the Showa riders show up to fight the Heisei riders for absolutely no reason instead of just teaming right away to fight the villains. The kid is a major plot point yet it focuses so much on the riders slugging it out that you forget he is even there once his scenes are over. Takumi gets some major focus in the movie and it really doesn't help my opinion of Faiz one bit. They completely retcon a major event in Faiz just so Takumi can feel bad that Kusaka of all people died. That makes absolutely no sense given what happened in the series especially since Kusaka reveals later in the movie that he was still the same in regards to personality as he was in Faiz. It would've made more sense if Takumi was moping about Kiba's death in Faiz since Kiba died restraining the big bad so Takumi could get off a point-blank ultimate form rider kick. I'm not even a fan of Faiz and I felt insulted. Even Fourze isn't in character. He is ready to kill from the get-go in the movie. His first response isn't going to be lethal force when another rider attacks him.

The Showa Riders are written so far out of character in this film that its not even funny (I'll go more into detail in a bit). Now, the whole fight to the death concept is once again a ruse to bring the riders together which doesn't make much sense because all the riders know who everyone else is and where they are. The movie expects us to believe that a fight to the death was the smartest option to bring them all together as opposed to you know, calling every rider up and bringing them together in one place without trying to kill each other. To top it all off, the Showa Riders reveal that they were indeed serious when they mentioned their dislike for the Heisei Riders. Their entire reason for fighting the Heisei riders is because "They're too human" and that they care too much about their dead friends and family. The entire point of most of the Showa riders is that they are fighting because they are still human despite what happened to them and that they're fighting so it doesn't happen to anyone else. The Showa riders' reasoning makes even less sense given that it was V3 and Black of all people that told them that. This movie feels like the writer effectively back-handed the entire Showa Era. The only scene I liked in the entire movie is when X slugs Takumi for even considering listening to Kusaka's ghost.

Final thoughts: These films are nothing more than fan service targeted toward those fans who focus on who can beat up who. The annoying part about is that these movies are using the AU setting as the only reason for why these movies are possible. Yes, an AU setting is an alright way to experiment with existing characters but its being used in these movies to make the heroes not think and as a result, they aren't acting like heroes. When I watch movies like this, I expect to see heroes acting like heroes and not fighting amongst themselves for ridiculous reasons while the world is in danger. The greater threat should take priority. At some point, someone at Toei needs to step in and tell Yonemura and Shirakura what they can and can't do with these characters. They are effectively insulting both the legacies of the characters involved and the people who produced the shows. However, that probably won't happen because these movies practically print money for Toei.